June 13, 2014

My Problem with Fitness Tech


My experience with both fitness and wearable tech has been bittersweet. After reading about Nike’s plans to ditch the FuelBand I started to think about my own experience. I started getting into recreational fitness in 2007. I had never had a gym membership, and I definitely never exercised by my own free will. I bought books, worked out with people more experienced than myself, and used the internet as a resource to find out what I needed to be doing in the gym to make progress.

Fast forward to two years ago when Nike released the FuelBand. I immediately took the opportunity to give Nike more of my money in exchange for a product that would do two things:

  • Help me be more active.
  • Show people that I use a FuelBand. (Isn’t that why we buy most things?)

I began using the FuelBand and counting my fuel” religiously. A couple of my friends were in on the experience too and there was no way I was going to be at the bottom of the leaderboard. However, my new quest for being the dominant athlete hadn’t really changed my regimen. There was no direct correlation between my fuel and my fitness, and there was definitely no book, experienced trainer, or online resource to help me utilize the technology. Instead, there was a goal that I was setting for myself.

The problem with setting your own goals is that you have control of them. This is why most of us don’t succeed when we say we are going to eat healthy food. It’s also why most of us fail when we decide at 8pm after stuffing our faces that we will start running and lose 20 pounds. A lot of us don’t have the experience or the knowledge to plan our own fitness. We need guidance.

Ultimately, my goal became arbitrary. I would try to set a goal higher than my usual daily limit and and the end of the day I would lower it, deciding that it was unrealistic unless I wanted to add in an extra trip to the gym every day. The FuelBand was just another thing I had to do everyday. Another thing I had to sync. Another app I had to keep on my home screen. It wasn’t adding value to my fitness, but at least people knew that I used it.

Skip ahead four months. I found myself in the Nike Store returning a piece of technology that was discolored from sweat and no longer working. They gave me a new one immediately and I walked out of the store, syncing my brand new band to my phone before I got to the car.

Four months later I was receiving my second replacement band in the mail. This time it didn’t include the nifty little stand for my desk.

A couple of months after that I was on the phone with Nike telling them this timeline of events. Again, my FuelBand was broken. They gave me a full refund and I put the money into an Up by Jawbone.

My experience with the Jawbone was much quicker. Before the week was over I wasn’t checking the app daily. I was assuming that I hit my goal because I run every day. Isn’t that enough to be healthy? I think so? The Up app wasn’t telling me any different so I must have been right.

Two years, three FuelBands, and three Up bands later I have given up on wearable fitness technology. Again, I am a recreational athlete. Maybe people with the proper knowledge and experience can utilize this technology to the fullest, but I don’t think that’s the majority of us. Data doesn’t mean much when you don’t understand what to do with it, and while accountability is great I suggest a personal trainer or gym buddy over yourself.

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